(Eds: Recasting overnight story)
Raipur, Aug 4 (PTI) As Chhattisgarh's northern region continues to witness human-elephant conflicts, the state forest department is planning to procure paddy and serve it as fodder to jumbos in forests on a pilot basis in a bid to prevent them from entering human settlements, a senior official said.
Elephants generally stray into villages in search of food. Hence, providing them fodder away from human settlements can help reduce the incidents of man-animal conflict, the official said on Tuesday.
However, the opposition BJP in the state criticised the forest department's move, saying it seems the project has been made for "committing corruption".
As per the Chhattisgarh government records, 204 people were killed in elephant attacks while 45 jumbos died in the state in last three years - 2018, 2019 and 2020.
During this period, 66,582 cases of elephants causing damage to crops, 5,047 cases of damage to houses and 3,151 cases of damage to other properties were also reported.
Human-elephant conflicts in the state's northern region has been a major cause of concern since the last one decade. The menace has further spread its footprint to some districts in central part of the state in the last few years.
Surguja, Raigarh, Korba, Surajpur, Mahasamund, Dhamtari, Gariaband, Balod, Balrampur and Kanker districts in the state have been mainly affected by the menace.
"Elephants generally stray into villages in search of food, including paddy, and destroy houses and crops. Such incidents also cause loss of lives. Providing them fodder away from the human habitats can help reduce man-animal conflicts," state Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) PV Narsingh Rao told PTI.
Therefore, the department has decided to keep piles of paddy in forests at some distance away from villages which may distract elephants from entering the human settlements, he said.
"Initially, it will be done on a pilot basis in some villages and based on the behaviour of elephants, it will be replicated in other areas," the official said.
For the procurement of paddy, the forest department has communicated with the Chhattisgarh State Cooperative Marketing Federation (MARKFED), and once it will be supplied, the concept will be implemented, he said.
According to MARKFED officials, the agency, which buys paddy from farmers at minimum support price, has offered to supply paddy to the forest department at Rs 2,095.83 per quintal, and has provided the names of storage centres from where the consignments can be collected.
However, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Dharamlal Kaushik alleged that in the name of elephant fodder, the state government was trying to dispose of its stock of rotten or sprouted paddy at higher rates.
“When good paddy is auctioned in the open market at Rs 1,400 per quintal, then why is the forest department procuring the rotten paddy at higher rates? Prima facie, it seems the project has been made for committing corruption” the BJP leader claimed. PTI TKP BNM